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This game let me set Cthulhu on my housemates to get them to clean up

Fantasy avatars doing housework
(Image credit: Craig J Spearing)

If you’ve ever wondered the best way to get your child, roommate, or significant other to clean up, I may have found the perfect relatively modern-day solution for you. Chore Wars is an alternate reality game, and essentially it’s a D&D esque RPG quest designer cross chore chart/tracker that lets you input quests with customisable encounters, loot drops, and experience points—all in aid of getting people to enjoy doing chores.

Essentially it’s a D&D esque RPG quest designer cross chore chart/tracker

Being over ten years old it’s a little outdated format-wise. It’s still a browser-based game that could do well in app form, but the fundamental concept remains ever relevant—and effective. Honestly, I’ve heard of players racing each other to do the grubbiest of housework, shouting at mum to stop folding the laundry because they want the XP gain.

Everyone creates an account and avatar, then the Dungeon Master can invite adventurers to join their party. There are chore templates for the most common housework to get you started, or you can start a chore chart from scratch and personalise it with different skill-point gains and XP for your party to level up. Experience can even be half or double claimed, in case there wasn’t time to mop and hoover, or if they went above and beyond the call of duty, which I think is a really neat little feature. 

As the DM, you’re also in charge of monster spawns. There could be a 30% chance to encounter The Great Old One, Cthulhu, while scrubbing the bath, or a 50% chance you could be set upon by a rabid pack of dust-bunnies while sweeping the floor.

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As well as creating monsters you can decide what spoils await your adventurers once they’ve defeated such enemies. These could be ancient, magical heirlooms, cursed pirate doubloons, or just a rusty spoon. I’ve even heard of gold and items being traded in for real-world treats like ice-cream or the right to decide the family movie one evening. You can create a veritable economy around your team of adventurers for some next-level societal manipulation.

The game was designed by Kevan Davis in 2007, who’s been pumping out escape games, board games, and web based adventures for almost two decades. There’s some room for improvement in terms of space to draw up elaborate encounters, with no way to add your own images or any more than a monster's name, but the basic framework is there and I’ve personally had nothing but positive experiences with it.

Jane McGonigal, author of ‘Reality is Broken’, believes infusing reality with game elements can make a better world. She hypes up Chore Wars a lot in her work, which delves into the realms of philosophy and psychology to explain how games are the answer to all our problems. I’m sure you’ll all agree that playing games has, as one point or another, instilled your life with a sense of meaning, camaraderie, or at the very least some level of joy.

According to McGonigal, Chore Wars has the potential to build up positive associations with otherwise mundane tasks. Even if the initial thrill of the game dies down, you and yours will still have had a meaningful and positive experience of doing chores together. As such, you might end up actually not hating chores (or each other) as much as you did. You might even learn to enjoy them. 

I’d absolutely recommend Chore Wars, not only for RPG-head parents, but for your college housemates, or even colleagues if you think the workplace could do with some incentives. You can make an account right now, so get ready to watch your party scramble for the nearest duster, and then it's time to sit back and witness the satisfying magic of gamified chores.